With the final days of summer beginning to wane, casting a bittersweet farewell to leisurely days and carefree moments, a new chapter of personal growth and college adventures unfolds. Navigating through a new city, dormitories, lectures, group projects, and a whirlwind of new faces can seem a daunting task for many. Thus embarking on this exhilarating journey of college life is often accompanied by a flurry of emotions and experiences, but for those grappling with social anxiety this adventure can also evoke apprehension and unease.
Social Anxiety Disorder Defined
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as the intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.This can encompass excessive worrying, overthinking minor social or performance situations, and avoiding environments with large crowds. Thus, with a college environment rife with outside pressure to socialize and put yourself out there, it is important to identify your triggers so that you may adjust to suit your needs and appease any worries you may have.
So how do I know if I am just feeling normal shyness and anxiety versus SAD?
It is important to look at the persistence and intensity of any symptoms or problem you face.Try keeping a journal and list out things you may be worried about when starting college. Recognize any negative thoughts and why they bother you, then think about what you can change in your environment to prevent or manage your anxiety.
Where do I begin to manage my college social anxiety?
- Welcome Week and Orientation
If your worries stem from starting something new and being faced with unfamiliar social situations, use this time to familiarize yourself with your new environment. Many universities have information about their campus beforehand, as well as many official online groups that can be tied to your graduating class, major, or even to help you find a roommate before you start if you find it more comfortable to socialize online. Universities also use welcome week to organize events for students, and it is important to remember that there will be people just as nervous as you when starting off at college.
- Classes and Lecture Halls
Another way that can help ease anxiety is planning your routes to classes. It can be helpful to explore the campus at your own pace a few days before classes start so that you are no longer worried about getting lost and drawing unwanted attention by being late. Also, when attending class try sitting down and talking with someone on the first day, it could even be simple as saying hi so that you can have a familiar face the rest of the semester when attending class.
- Joining a Student Community
When starting college there will be many different organizations outreaching for members to join. Finding a community that you can share common interests in will help a lot towards making you feel comfortable in your college environment. It is also helpful, as many students may be of different ages and places so it can help you build interpersonal skills for future use outside of your community.
- Finding a Support System
When faced with so many new activities and an overwhelming amount of information, finding a support system will be important when navigating college. It could be a loved one you call for 15 minutes a day to talk about your day, your student community, floormates and or roommate, or even your professors. Professors typically have office hours that can be used to ask questions about class, or help with projects. If you find yourself too nervous to put yourself out there during class, try attending office hours to ask questions. Admin are there for support throughout your academic journey, and can even inform you of resources or clubs you may not even know about!
- Practicing Self Care
The main thing to do when feeling any type of anxiety or unease is to practice self care. It is important to relax and think through any feelings you may be experiencing. This can range from going on a walk, journaling, exercising at the campus gym, or decorating your new living space.
Whether you are grappling with the occasional pangs of shyness or wrestling with the weight of social anxiety, remember that you are not alone on starting this journey. Many students will undergo different social challenges when starting college, and with each step you take to understand your triggers, seek support, and practice self-care, you are cultivating the resilience you need to navigate and embrace the challenges and opportunities that college brings. If you are dealing with extreme anxiety while approaching college, and need further help in understanding your triggers, seek help here at Pacific CBT to help navigate any negative thoughts and create a plan as you start this new journey.
About the Author: Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.